arthritic hands of an old couple.
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Arthritis refers to the inflammation of a joint, a part of the body where two bones meet. Inflammation is a normal physiological response to injury or infection, but when a joint is inflamed for an extended period of time or inflammation occurs over and over, tissue damage can result.

The pain, swelling, and stiffness associated with arthritis are all rooted in this joint inflammation, but the inflammation can have different causes depending on the type of arthritis – for instance, aging, injury, infections, autoimmune disorders, or metabolic malfunctions can all lead to inflammation and discomfort in joints.

Some of the most common types of arthritis and their causes are listed below:
  • Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting more than 27 million Americans. This type of arthritis is caused when cartilage covering the ends of the bones is gradually worn away, leading the bones to rub together. The most commonly affected joints are hands, knees, hips, and joints in the spine. Osteoarthritis is also called degenerative joint disease because it often occurs as cartilage breaks down with age or overuse.
  • Gout. Gout occurs when excess uric acid in the body forms sharp crystals in the joints that cause swelling and severe pain. It affects about 5 million people in the United States, and is more common in men than women. Gout is caused by a metabolic abnormality, and most often affects the knee, big toe, and wrist joints. Swelling and severe pain are symptoms.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis. This is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks itself, causing the joint lining to swell. The inflammation can spread and damage cartilage and bone, or in severe cases the rheumatoid arthritis can affect other body areas like the skin or nerves. The disease is usually long-lasting, but there are often long stretches without symptoms.

Arthritis is often associated with old age, but nearly 300,000 children in the US are affected by some type of arthritis. The good news is that in many cases, arthritis in children is not permanent and the child can go into remission with few or no lasting effects. If you're concerned about your child or their recent diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, check out Medicinenet.com and CVS Health Resources.
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